Music Reviews

Adrian Løseth Waade: Kitchen Music

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Sep 27 2019
Artist: Adrian Løseth Waade
Title: Kitchen Music
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Nakama Records
After contributing his violin work to a wide range of other Norwegian artist’s albums, this is Adrian Løseth Waade’s first album in his own name. He’s invited three of his friends along to contribute guitar, double bass and drums, but generally allows his violin to take centre stage, as the melodic source, the equivalent of the lead singer in this small ensemble.

The result is an intimate and homely set of folky experimental instrumental music that’s pleasant and largely unchallenging- exemplified by the title track which sounds like lounge music, in the sense of ‘lounge’ as in ‘living room’, cosy and relaxing. “Morning Routine” feels, as the title suggests, like a musical illustration of breakfast and teeth brushing, but without the angst of work pressure, and final track “Indoor Life” rolls along in a somewhat glib way that evokes thoughts of the end-of-day routine, an appropriate bookend. Inbetween, “Fuglens Cabaret” is a jollier number representing musicians enjoying themselves and each other’s comfort zones- a lazy day out.

“Hvitt Som Kokosnøttens Kjerne” stands out as an exception, a more sombre affair at first that curiously transforms into a leisurely park walk worthy of a black-and-white French film and which is the violin’s opportunity to show its more emotional side. This nine-minute track offers the breadth of tone that rounds the album out.

It’s a relatively modest release in its sound, letting four musicians play to their strengths to give a result that’s casual, in some ways unremarkable, but still a sure-fire win for lovers of the marginally more experimental side of instrumental folk.

Guzz: 􁩳􀓧􀚊􁌱􀻼􀤹 Walking in a Boundless Dream

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Sep 10 2019
Artist: Guzz
Title: 􁩳􀓧􀚊􁌱􀻼􀤹 Walking in a Boundless Dream
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
The second album from Guzz is a fusion album, in the original sense, making new Asian music that combines traditional sounds and musical forms from Myanmar and India with cutting-edge synth-electronica and glitch. Fittingly every song’s title is in two languages, but please forgive me that I have only used the English version here.

It’s quite flowery and times, with tracks like “An Epic Poem Dissipates Over The Coast” and “Amber” sounding positive, breezy and a little indulgent. “Rain Man” is modern day world music for tourist incense shops, but not (honestly) in a bad way, while “Half-awake” can’t seem to make up its mind whether it’s glitch-lite or Asian-sounding chillout music.

By contrast, there’s an edginess to tracks like “Countless Flying Birds” that keeps it sharply contemporary, with more than a shade of a modern grimey undertone. “Star Sea” is also noticeably sharp-hewn, in an enjoyable way.

There are more thoughtful moments on show as well. The title track mixes the melodic quality of dream-pop with a gentle bass swagger; it’s also quite sparse, one of several tracks which is more stripped-back and less chaotic than the cover art may imply. “No-mind” is gently reflective and uses atmospheric sound- possibly the sound of a marketplace- to strong effect, while “Sky Tree” has a touch of the cinematic synthwave about it.

As a proper bit of fusion, this works well. It perhaps dips too close to novelty- or maybe just accessibility- for some tastes, but if you like your traditional Asian music gently powered by electronics, you’ll certainly appreciate chunks of this.

The Touchables: The Noise Is Rest

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Aug 26 2019
Artist: The Touchables
Title: The Noise Is Rest
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Conradsound
Conceptually this is an endearingly simple set-up- Norwegian duo Ole-Henrik Moe on a piccoletto violin and Guro Skumsnes Moe on an octobass, setting out to explore and play with sounds on both of the edges of standard human frequency perception, the former high, the latter low. It’s a string duet like none you’ve heard before, a deep dive into acoustic textures and hearing exercises.

After the sparse drone sustains of “Nothing In Between” afford a sort of overture, you are jolted by the instant mania of “Barking Beetle Boogie”, which starts at a pace it can’t sustain before settling into more sedate territory. This frantic approach is returned to later in “Unicorn Stocking”, which also jumps out of the gate at full pelt, exploring more percussive aspects of the sound and pitchsliding excitedly, before letting its energy level drop to more manageable levels.

The press release introduces another unusual concept- the idea of playing the note “E”, preferably loudly and at great length, as a way of expressing concern for the ‘E’nvironment, and the hope that it’s a concept that could go viral. It’s a sweet idea though I’d have to suspect it’s too cerebral to really take off. I haven’t checked the pitch so the following statement may be completely in error, but it’s an idea that may be at play in pieces like “Birdabyalullaland”, which is grounded in the two instruments repeating a bass note relentlessly and then deviating from it just occasionally in a way that adds both texture and suspense.

“Blackout Lighthouse” loops us back to the beginning somewhat, returning to screechy drones that more sensitive listeners may find as jarring as nails down a blackboard- an acquired taste, but worth persevering with to experience the effect that long immersion has on your aural senses. “Peace Ghost” ascribes a similar, strung-out path but in lower registers, feeling somewhat like distorted found sound at times. This flows nicely into “Byalullalandbird” which puts more ebb and flow into the sustains, and which offers up the rare treat of a violin sounding like an old steam kettle as an aside. Final track “Deserted Desert” strips out mid-range tones, adds a windy rattle, and ends proceedings in a manner that’s somewhat on the bleak side.

As avantgarde experimental classical music goes, this work is slightly more playful than most, in principle at least- but it’s certainly not without its darker underbelly. It’s the forerunner of some releases imminent from a larger chamber orchestra, and on the strength of this, those will certainly be worth checking out. It’s also potentially a strong test piece if you’re concerned that either your ears or your speaker system are no longer registering dog-whistle frequencies...

Leo Svirsky: River Without Banks

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Aug 23 2019
Artist: Leo Svirsky
Title: River Without Banks
Format: 12" vinyl + CD
Label: Unseen Worlds
“River Without Banks” is named after a chapter in musicologist Grenrikh Orlov’s “Tree Of Music” where Orlov draws connections between Western and Eastern traditions of using chant and raga forms to ‘eliminate the division between the physical and the spiritual’. Conceptually it’s a fluid and open-minded idea that eschews more traditional compositional form.

Musically, Leo Svirsky interprets this principle using a piano, first and foremost, and predominantly solo. Long rolling chord work and super-sustained single chords twinkle and play in a manner that gives us work that feels classical in timbre, but more mesmeric and sometimes even drone-like in form. When it lets up slightly, particularly in the title track, it falls back into more familiar and romantic-sounding themes; on “Trembling Instants” sounding somewhat glib at first. Some strong and deliberate stereo separation, pushing a piano across your aural field, adds to the sense of immersion.

Ten minutes in, other elements are introduced. The piano still remains at the centre but we are also given electronics, strings and trumpet- generally long notes, drawing lines of tension or support to compliment the musical core. In “Rain, Rivers, Forest, Corn, Wind, Sand” it forges an unusual hybrid of almost folksy acoustic drone with more contemporary-sound synthetic touches.

“Strange Lands And People” is the most sombre point, a ten minute piano ballad that is also perhaps the album’s most traditional point as well, and coupled with final piece “Fanfare (after Jeromos Kamphuis)”, a sparser collection of tip-toeing single chords, the album wraps up firmly ensconced in a sense of musical tradition.

It’s a piano-driven album that somehow fails to sing. In trying to find the fluidity and commonality among musical ideas old and new, it has landed in a kind of mediocre middle ground, neither truly one thing or another. It is perhaps held back by self-indulgent piano time where some of the more layered and collaborative sections would have been more interesting to hear extended or explored further. It’s pleasant enough though.

Erkki Veltheim: Ganzfeld Experiment

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Aug 14 2019
Artist: Erkki Veltheim
Title: Ganzfeld Experiment
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Room40
“Ganzfeld Experiment” is a single 44-minute work, pitched as an audiovisual work for electric violin, video and signal processing, but it is being released as an LP and I’ve only been sent the audio, so I am reviewing it on its sonic merits only.

Finnish-born, Australia-based Veltheim is a violinist, in a word, but he describes his practice as spanning “noise, audiovisual installation, improvisation, notated music, electroacoustic
composition and multidisciplinary performance”- and it’s the latter rather than the former we get here. Violin tones are barely recognisable as the source, especially at the beginning of the work, as they have been bathed and deconstructed by processing, pulsing and transformation into something decidedly more electronic in texture.

Instead the result is more akin to a crisp, lo-fi proto techno, with gradual speed and amplitude changes applied to gated and harsh metallic tones for something that’s a little sandpapery and a little dark sci-fi. Tone shifts draw out a form of melody that has the appearance, superficially at least, of randomness. Around fifteen minutes in arpeggios begin to form, followed by more distinct melodic pattern loops, offering a more overt compositional structure without really changing the sonic make-up. The natural progression for the melody is into frantic chaos, which duly follows, but by the final stretch of the listen, steadiness and flatter drones have been reestablished, giving a sense of coming full circle.

A couple of times, the pulsing fades away so thoroughly that it becomes inaudible, leaving behind nothing but crisp flavoured noise with echoes of rhythm in it- and it’s this level of variation that keeps enough listener interest to make it appealing, and the cyclical structure adds to that somewhat. Harsh for certain tastes, and perhaps lacking in variety for others, I’d still regard this as a strong bit of work in the rare field of violin-meets-noise.
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